I’m about 99.5% sure our NBC Sports Chicago show “Outside the Ivy” is coming back at the start of the season, but there’s still a small chance it doesn’t happen – it’s the nature of the business, I’ve learned.
If we are back, however, we won’t be on immediately after games like we were last year, because … well, there are no games on NBC Sports Chicago this season! BUT that may be a blessing in disguise. Instead of that unpredictable, often late-night broadcast schedule, the powers that be are toying with a consistent weekly broadcast (just like a regular TV show), which I think could work well. (I suggested we film and release all 26 episodes on Opening Day, so you can binge them all at once, but no one seems to be taking that bait).
Here’s some news from around the league.
- According to the Houston Chronicle, the Astros are not yet ruling out an external addition to their starting rotation, currently led by Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and some combination of whomever’s leftover (Jose Urquidy, Josh James, Framber Valdez). Back-end uncertainty aside, the Astros are relying a whole lot on a 37-year old Verlander, a 36-year-old Greinke, and McCullers, who yesterday threw his first pitch in a big league game since Tommy John surgery in 2018. To say there are questions, potential limitations, and a general dearth of sure-fire options would be an understatement. The Astros join the Yankees and the Angels in their spring search for starting pitching.
- While we’re on the Astros, they’ve taken a little bit of additional heat here lately, for “protecting” their starters and regulars during the spring, as well as confiscating signs at the ballpark that allude to their cheating scandal. As far as I’m concerned, they deserve all the heat they get – especially, if they keep avoiding the public as much as possible.
- An interesting angle on the Dodgers this season, I hadn’t really considered: Awkwardness. Surely, the unexpected presence of Brusdar Graterol, Joc Pederson, and Ross Stripling shouldn’t matter too much (after those failed trades), but how about the results of the Red Sox cheating investigation? David Price and Mookie Betts were on the (now under investigation for cheating) Red Sox team that beat the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series. The Dodgers didn’t hold any punches when talking about the Astros, when news of that scandal broke, so it’s fair to wonder how that plays out with their teammates.
- While we’re on the Dodgers, Mookie Betts has apparently delivered a message to his teammates in Los Angeles (well, Arizona): “If you want to be World Series champions, act like it now.” Betts basically told his teammates to pick up the intensity even now in Spring Training, and his new teammates, as you can imagine, we’re caught off guard. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said: “It was definitely surprising to a lot of people. You don’t see a guy coming into a clubhouse, not knowing too many guys, get up, and basically challenge the whole team to be accountable. That was something pretty special.” Betts must be pretty confident he won’t be mentioned in that investigation.
- At ESPN, Buster Olney took a closer look at the potential impacts of the new three-batter minimum and there are some potential surprises awaiting us this year. The article dives far deeper – so I encourage you to check it out – but the big ones: (1) good platoon/split hitters will be more valuable than ever, (2) the number of intentional walks will increase, (3) reverse split pitchers will be more coveted than ever, (4) we’ll see more of the best relievers at the highest leverage spots than ever, and (5) more pitchers will come in to finish an at-bat, because that would count towards that pitchers 3-batters. Perhaps later this week, we can take a look at the Cubs roster to see how many strong platoon hitters they have and which pitchers carry the most (if any) significant reverse splits.
- The Cardinals have some injuries: Brad Miller (back stiffness) was scratched from Sunday’s game, Matt Carpenter (Back tightness) has been sore for the last four days, and Yairo Muñoz (left hamstring) felt a pop in his leg while running down the first-base line on Saturday. All of which is to inform you of the Cardinals status, but also remind you that the Cubs have been relatively lucky with health so far this spring. Prepare yourselves for the eventuality that someone significant will deal with something soon. It always happens.
- Logan Morrison hit 38 home runs in 2017, but injuries and ineffectiveness led to getting bought out by the Twins, released by the Yankees, and seeing only 35 at-bats with the Phillies over the next two years. Now with the Brewers, Morrison says it’s the big leagues or bust: “Triple-A is not an option … That’s not going to happen. I have nothing to prove there. If they try to send me down, I can get out. I don’t want to be in the same league as Tim Tebow again.”
- Can you blame him?
Tim Tebow Absolutely Biffs it on a Routine Fly Ball and I Can’t Help But Laughhttps://t.co/iUfZvm5snJ
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 28, 2020
- In any case, with the 26th roster spot now available and their feet to the fire you have to imagine the Brewers will want to keep him up as long as possible (given the upside).
- Starlin Castro played all 162 games last season, despite being offered a occasional breaks, because he wanted to lead the Marlins while it was rebuilding (god I love that man). Now with the World Series champion Nationals, Castro has new life with a good team for the first time since, well, the 2015 Chicago Cubs (he got bounced from the Yankees before they turned the corner and spent the last two years in Miami). “Watching him go through what he’s had to go through, you got to appreciate a player like that.” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “He showed up every day.” The Nationals are hoping the mid-season swing-tweaks and change-of-scenery can renew his career, and frankly … I couldn’t be rooting harder for him.
- At ESPN, Jesse Rogers asked some Cubs and Angels players about things that can happen “only in Spring Training” and the responses are pretty great. Mike Trout talks about going to the wrong ballpark, Anthony Rizzo had a bet with Joe Maddon when they played in Vegas that he could come out of the game if he hit a first at-bat home run … which he did. Tommy La Stella reminded us of that car prank, and several other guys chimed in. Fun read.
- The Dominican Republic national team is trying to qualify for one of the final two remaining spots in the 2020 Olympics and they just got some really interesting reinforcements: baseball’s unanimous top prospect Wander Franco and former MLB star Jose Bautista (who hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2018). Baseball hasn’t been an Olympic sport since 2008, but it’s coming back this year and you have to imagine the DR has a good shot to join the field, particularly with a hungry Franco ready to prove what he’s got. But check this out: Bautista isn’t just returning for the Olympics. He still wants to play in the Majors and is trying to return as a TWO-WAY player. Indeed, he’s been working out as a pitcher this offseason and is going to give it a shot. That’ll be fun.
- Mike Trout hit this golf ball hilariously far. It doesn’t even look real to me, to be honest.
I Shouldn’t Be Surprised, But Mike Trout Can Hit a Golfball OBSCENELY Farhttps://t.co/FqymAYGCPq
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) March 2, 2020